England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan insisted he did the right thing for the team's "development" by dropping himself for the third Twenty20 international against South Africa in Cardiff on Sunday.
But the skipper’s absence from a pivotal match, with the series tied at 1-1, drew the ire of several pundits and former players.
Morgan said he wanted to give another opportunity to middle-order batsman Liam Livingstone who made 16 on debut in England's three-run defeat at Taunton on Friday, a result that set up Sunday night's decider.
But Morgan's absence also paved the way for Dawid Malan to make a debut at No.3 and his fellow Middlesex left-hander responded with an impressive 78 in a total of 8-181 after South Africa captain AB de Villiers won the toss and fielded.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan was incredulous at the absent skipper, with Jos Buttler taking the reins for the match.
1-1 ... Series decider ... and the England Skipper is resting !!!!!!!!!!!!! #WTF ..... Worlds gone mad— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) June 25, 2017
Despite handing over the captaincy for the final match, Morgan, in full playing kit, still lifted the trophy after the playing XI secured the series win in Cardiff.
Former England international James Taylor, who was forced to retire in his prime at age 26 after he learned of a serious heart condition, was also unequivocal in his views.
"Morgan is England's leader. He should be out there leading the way, he should be playing," Taylor told BBC's Test Match Special.
Malan's innings was the highest score by an England batsman on Twenty20 International debut, topping the 46 made by Paul Collingwood in England's very first match at this level – a 100-run win against Australia at Southampton in 2005.
During the course of Malan's 44-ball knock, featuring 12 fours and two sixes, Morgan – watching from the boundary at Cardiff's Sophia Gardens – told Sky Sports: "He looks very relaxed.
"He's been around a long time and scored a lot of runs at Middlesex in all three forms.
"We've given him an opportunity today and part and parcel of him developing is taking that opportunity," added Morgan, who at 30 is only a year older than Malan.
There's 83 days between now and England's next white-ball match on September 16...just to put the Morgan being rested news into perspective— Chris Stocks (@StocksC_cricket) June 25, 2017
Livingstone, however, fell for a golden duck clean bowled by paceman Dane Paterson as he attempted an extravagant ramp shot.
From 3-166, England lost five wickets for 14 runs – a slide that Morgan, a veteran of 69 T20 Internationals – might have done something to stop if he'd been playing in this match.
"We recognise the series as a big opportunity to have a look at a younger group of players,” Morgan explained.
"If it was a case where I could go on and captain, I would. But this is an important part of our development for this series."
Former Ireland international Morgan added: "It’s a very difficult situation to be in. I love playing international cricket, but unfortunately that is the case today."
He insisted: "We remain very confident we can win the game with the team we have and put on a real entertaining show.
"It’s tough, but it’s a call you have to make looking to the long-term. It’s down to the quality of players that we have.
"It is a big call. But we haven’t been shy of making big calls in the past."
Another 'big call' for England was to overlook speedster Craig Overton for a debut in the series, with former Test batsman claiming the ECB had "broken their word" over his non-selection.
Overton – the only member of England's T20 squad to not get a game – had been expected to play in the second match on his home-ground at Taunton.
Ahead of the T20I series against the Proteas, Morgan told the ECB website: "You’ll see everybody play at least one game – this is an opportunity to give people a chance and see what they can do on the international stage."